Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What is Vancouver cuisine?

Indian... sushi... shawarma... sushi... as seen on Commercial Drive.

I was reading a great post on the Ethnic Eats blog where there was an attempt to answer the following question:

"What is Canadian cuisine?"

I responded:

"I’ve thought about that question before and I’ve always thought that Canada’s identity is too regional to truly have a national cuisine. I mean, there isn’t one cuisine that represents Canadians as a whole (Tim Horton’s, Ketchup Chips, and Kraft Dinner doesn’t count!). There are food items that are unique to Canada (butter tarts, apparently), but it’s not really a cuisine.

However, when you think about each province or region – there is certainly Canadian cuisine at a regional level, whether it be the salmon of coastal BC, or Alberta beef…. the Ukrainian delicacies of the Prairies… the Saskatoon-berries of Saskatchewan, the seal-flipper pies and cod tongues of Newfoundland, or the Digby scallops and lobster of Nova Scotia. This doesn’t even cover the indigenous game meat of the arctic territories, which is practically foreign to the rest of Canada. You’ve already covered Quebec, and Ontario can claim Tim Horton’s. ;)"

(Can you tell I took one too many cultural geography classes at UBC? Ha!)

But seriously, it got me thinking, if Canadian cuisine is a hodgepodge of regional ingredients and ethnic dishes from the immigrant settlers, how can we define Vancouver cuisine? What would we choose?

Sushi and Starbucks?

Oooh, speaking of which, the Vancouver Sun published an article back in 2004 (as seen here in this defunct blog) comparing the amount of sushi restaurants in Vancouver to the amount of Starbucks. Starbucks gave sushi a good run for its money, but sushi ultimately dominates.

Getting back on track, is Vancouver cuisine smoked salmon?

A Japadog?

Spot prawns?

Dollar pizza?

Maybe it's a dinner using the 100 mile diet philosophy, which you can get from Bishop's or the Rain City Grill.

Whatever it is, Vancouver Magazine published the Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009 which gives great insight into local cuisine.

How would you define Vancouver cuisine?


Emmanuelle Archer said...

To me, Vancouver cuisine has always been more about the ingredients and a certain approach to food than about specific dishes or cooking techniques.

Like you said, we have certainly embraced the "locavore" trend - and how could we not when we have such great seafood, produce and wine to be had?

So to me, (good) Vancouver cuisine = local ingredients + unfussy preparations that let the ingredients shine + a definite Pacific Rim / Asian influence in the flavours and the cooking methods.

Now what I'd really like to see is a new First Nations restaurant to replace the sadly departed Liliget Feast House. Mmm, bannock!


Robyn said...

Well said Emmanuelle! You summarized Vancouver cuisine perfectly.

And you know, embarrassingly, I never actually had a chance to visit Liliget Feast House. But I wonder if there's somewhere else in Vancouver that serves bannock?

Blogger said...

As a newbie to Vancouver (with less than 12 months of local-eating under my belt), I can't boast to have eaten much of what Vancouver has to offer. (But I've tried my best!)

And multiculturalism is great 'n all and should be embraced, but not at the cost of losing Vancouver's culinary identity.

As a foreigner, when I think of "Vancouver Cuisine" the first two words that come to mind are "fresh" and "Pacific". And I'm not even that big a seafood fan, but still, that's what I think of.

Just like Emmanuelle's comments, I think Vancouver's cuisine would include:

- Fresh local ingredients (Pacific seafood, local produce, B.C. game)
- Internationally-influenced cooking styles and food presentation (French, Oriental, Asian)
- And 2 x heaped tsps. of marijuana (Just kidding!)

PS. Someone should rally Vancouver's "foodies" and create a "trademark Vancouver dish". Something that blows Quebec's 'poutine' out of the water.

PPS. There are a LOT of things on that "Best Things to Eat and Drink in Vancouver 2009" that I'm going to have to eat. You know... for, umm... research. Yeah, research!

Robyn said...

Yeah, fresh + Pacific is also very much Vancouver. The only other Canadian city I know that has its own sense of cuisine is Montreal, which is based heavily on French tradition of meat-based meals with a healthy dose of sauces, breads, and cheese.

BTW - looking at that Best Things list, it's not so much about Vancouver "cuisine" than it is about particularly unique items, novelty or otherwise. Still cool regardless. ;)

Colene said...

I agree with the other comments and also want to add one more word: fusion!